1. This Sunday is dedicated to the doctrine of the Trinity, one God in three persons. The Triune God is the saving God. Many churches use the Athanasian Creed, rather than either the Apostles or the Nicene Creed, on this day. The Trinity underlies Jn. 3:1-15.
2. Vss. 1-10 are a dialogue between Nicodemus and Jesus. Vss. 11-21 are a monalogue by Jesus. Jn. 2:23-25 describe the people in Jerusalem who were impressed by Jesus' signs. But their faith was very weak. Jn.3:1-12 describes Nicodemus who, although he was a member of the Sanhedrin and a teacher of Israel, was not yet a Christian. The only remedy for unbelief is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. Three of the "Truly, truly" sayings in Jn. occur here, vss. 3, 5, and 11. There is a total of 24 in this Gospel.
4. Until a sinner is regenerated or born again he is spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God. He cannot help himself. See Js. 1:18; I Pet. 1:23; Jn. 1:13; Lk. 8:11. The Law cannot cause rebirth. Only the Gospel does that. Baptism causes rebirth. Jn. 3:5; Tit. 3:5; I Pet. 3:21; Eph. 5:26; Acts 2:38. That's why Jesus commanded that all nations be taught and baptized. Mt. 28:19.
5. Vs. 6 tells us that physical birth only produces sinful flesh but birth caused by the Holy Spirit causes a person to be spiritual. II Cor. 5:17 says: "If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation." The Spirit's gift of faith in Christ causes rebirth, a new creation.
6. Nicodemus became a Christian. See Jn. 7:50 and 19:39.
7. Jesus is neither flattered by Nicodemus nor does He talk down to him.
8. The Kingdom of God on earth is the total number of those who truly believe in Jesus. When these people die they enter the Kingdom of Glory.
9. The illustration about the wind in vs. 8 simply means that just as the movement of the wind, though we experience it, is incomprehensible to us, likewise, though we experience conversion, we cannot explain it.
10. In vs. 12 Jesus distinguishes between the observable work of the Gospel on earth, and the unobservable person and work of Jesus. The observable work is baptism and conversion. The unobservable is likewise twofold: The Son of man, Jesus, is present both in heaven and on earth and the crucifixion of the Son of man saved the world.These four items, two observable and two unobservable, can be attained only by the faith of rebirth.
11. The serpent in the wilderness, Num. 21:8, was an OT type of the crucifixion of Jesus. Those who looked at the brazen serpent lived.Those who believe in the crucified Jesus will live forever. The serpent brought sin and death into the world. Hebr. 2:14 tells us that through death Jesus destroyed the devil who had the power of death. In this way Jesus reconciled all people to God. I Cor. 5:14 says: "If One died, all died." That is truly remarkable, but true.
12. In Jn. 3:14 Jesus says: "The Son of man must be lifted up (crucified). Jesus often said "I must." See Lk. 2:49; 9:22; 17:25. God had so willed it and Jesus knew that He must do it. But He did it willingly. Hebr. 10:9; Jn. 10:17-18. All true love always begins only with the love of God in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
13. In Jn. 3:7 Jesus says "You must be born again." It is absolutely necessary or otherwise we remain dead in our sins. And, secondly, we must be born again because it is God's will. Therefore, the musts in Jesus' life and my life are the will of God and are my salvation.
14. Jn. 3:1-21 contains the main central Christian truths: The Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit); the necessity of rebirth through baptism; Jesus, true God and true man in one person; the crucifixion of Jesus which saves all men; the new life of the believer compared with the dead life of the unbeliever; faith saves, unbelief damns; Jesus, the Light of the world.
THEME: The, Son Of Man Must Be Lifted Up And I Must Be Born Again
The word "must" occurs twice in our text, the first with reference to the necessity of sinful man's rebirth in vs. 7 and the second with reference to the crucifixion of the Son of man in vs. 14. These two "musts" are our central thoughts.
I. YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN
A. Why this is necessary. In Vs. 5 Jesus says that man cannot enter the kingdom of God, the family of believers, as he is. This is found everywhere in the Bible. At Jn. 6:44 Jesus says: "No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him." Why not? Eph. 2:1 says that natural man is dead in trespasses and sin. Rom. 5:6 says that while we were yet without strength Christ died for the ungodly. Rom. 5:10 tells us that before we were reconciled to God we were his enemies. I Cor. 2:14 says that natural man is not spiritual and does not receive the things of God's spirit. Jesus summarizes all of this in Jn. 3:6 when He says: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." Natural man is spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God. It is impossible for him to save himself. Jesus said at Mt. 19:26 "With men this is impossible but with God all things are possible."
B. What this means. In vs. 3 Jesus says: "Unless a person is born again He cannot see the Kingdom of God," and in vs. 5 He says "Unless a person is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God," and in vs. 6: "That which is born of the (Holy) Spirit is spirit(ual)." In Num. 21 when the Israelites sinned they were bitten by snakes and could not save themselves or avoid death. The help which God afforded was absolutely necessary. Time and again the OT says: "Restore us, 0 God." See Ps. 80:3.7; 85:4; Jer. 31:18; Lam. 5:21. These are only a few of the many instances. How does God do this? In and through baptism, the water and the Spirit, God causes rebirth, regeneration. This is found in many places in the NT. See Tit. 3:5; I Pet. 3:21; Eph. 5:26; Acts 2:38; Mt. 28:19. Baptism makes salvation possible. It washes away our sins. It brings the Holy Spirit. Through the Word it gives faith in the promises of God.
II. THE SON OF MAN MUST BE LIFTED UP
A. Why this is necessary. Jesus often said: "I must." See Lk. 2:49; 9:22; 17:25. Just as lifting up the serpent in the wilderness (Num. 21) was God's will, so the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus were God's will. In prophecy and fulfillment Jesus said to the Father: "Lo, I come to do your will." Ps. 40:7-9; Hebr. 10:8-10. In His agony in the Garden He said: "Thy will, not mine, be done." Mt. 26:39. It was according to the plan of the Triune God. Gal. 4:4-5 tells us: "When the full time came God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem those under the Levi so that we might receive the full rights of sons." When Peter tried to deter Jesus from God's will Jesus spoke harsh words to Peter. Mt. 16:21-23. That's why Jesus told Nicodemus: "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up."
B. What this means. Just as the look of faith kept the poisoned Israelites alive, so the look of faith in the crucified Christ gives eternal life to lost mankind. That's what Jesus says at Jn. 3:15. When Jesus commented on His crucifixion at Jn. 12:32 He said: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to Myself." The crucifixion of Jesus not only pays for our sins and gives us eternal life, but it also draws all people to Jesus. The crucifixion of Jesus gives us faith in Jesus to live forever. That's why Paul said: "God forbid that I boast in anything except the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ." Gal. 6:14. That's why Paul said: "We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews an offense and to the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. He must be lifted up and I must be born again.